The Hedgehog of Wisdom – using Midori Flash Cards to index inks


“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  (Archilochus)

…hedgehogs aren’t simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”  (Jim Collins)

At the start of 2017 I resolved to expand the range of inks in my possession and I’m happy to say it’s a resolution I’ve managed to keep to, buying both bottles and samples to test different makes and colours.  This creates its own problems: i) where to keep the ink; and ii) how to keep track of what I’ve got.  I haven’t really solved the first one, but I’ve made a start on the second.  Enter the Hedgehog…

Like many people, when I first discovered the Midori Traveler’s Notebook I also stumbled on the vast array of stationery items that Midori also produces.  They all seemed like a good idea at the time I bought them, but have mostly sat around my desk looking for a purpose in life.  And so it was with a set of flash cards in the shape of a hedgehog.  Nice enough to look at, but what on earth was I going to do with them?


The Hedgehog of Wisdom

Cataloguing inks

With the number of inks I owned growing fast, I realised I needed to do something to keep a handle on what I had.  My first attempt to catalogue my inks was with a Clairefontaine Age Bag notebook.  Great idea I thought.  Lots of high quality pure-white pages.  What’s not to like?  Well, a couple of things actually…

Sure the paper is good, but I really, really hate the way this book is put together.  To say it’s not a lay-flat binding is an understatement.  Call me squeamish, but I can’t quite bring myself to inflict the level of physical violence on a poor, defenceless book that is necessary to make it stay open at the page I’m interested in.  Also, and presumably to save cost, the faux aged card covers are stuck on top of the spine tape, rather than integral to the binding.

The flaw in the plan with notebooks

There also some practical problems on the horizon.  However you group inks and categorise them, if you use a book you are almost guaranteed to want to compare two inks that are on different pages.  Short of tearing out pages, you’re going to struggle to make all the side-by-side comparisons you’ll want.  Also, unless you’re brilliant at predicting how many inks of each colour you’re going to end up with, allowing enough space for each in (say) the blue section is going to be tricky.


You can get a lot on a page in a notebook, but the format is not very flexible

Here’s where the Hedgehog comes in.  It’s a stack of 80 flash cards, held together by a metal ring.  The ring can be opened to add, remove, move cards, but you can just add a swatch for each new ink without worrying about any particular sequence.

I’ve taken to numbering each swatch and keeping a list of which ink the number corresponds to.  I also try to “double up” on half of the swatch (i.e. two passes of the cotton bud) as a means of getting an idea about saturation and also to help spot things like sheen.


Until I put this together, I’d never noticed the sheen that comes with Diamine Teal (if you apply enough of it!)

I like to compare how one ink looks against another.  It helps me figure out what to make of a new ink, if I can look at it alongside one that I already know.  The real utility of the Hedgehog is the ability to pull out several colours and compare them…


A set of flash cards will cost you around £3/$3.  As well as hedgehogs you can have ducks, cats, dogs, bears, strawberries (you get the picture).  I got mine from the Journal Shop, but Jet Pens and the Tokyo Pen Shop also sell them.  I haven’t managed to figure what weight the paper is, but it’s plenty heavy enough and there’s been no hint of feathering, show-through or bleed-through.

Hedgehogs are truly wise creatures.

Midori MD A5 Notebook Review

For many people, when you mention Midori, they think of the very popular Traveler’s Notebook.  Compared to such a high profile range, the MD notebooks are less well known, which is a shame because they really are great notebooks.  I’ve been using one as a journal of sorts for a few months now and think they deserve a great deal more recognition.

The A5 notebooks can be had plain, rules or with a grid pattern.  They’re fairly widely available with similar £/$ prices.  I bought mine from the Journal Shop for £12.95.

In my (so far) limited experience of Japanese stationery, packaging has tended to be simple but exquisite.  The story is no different for the MD.  The simple but beautiful cream card cover is wrapped in a sheet of glassine paper with a wraparound paper sleeve.  The cover is vulnerable to marking easiliy, so this is pretty much a necessity in packaging terms.

Midori MD notebook packaging front view

A plain version of the MD, fresh out of its wrapper


Midori MD notebook packaging rear view

Once you get into using the notebook, the cover is embossed with the MD symbol.  This simple design touch adds to the overall sense of class you get from using these notebooks.

Embossed Midori MD logo


The MD has sewn binding made up of a large number of small signatures, giving a usable page count of 176.  The main result is that the book opens flat without the need to inflict physical violence on it.  As a left-hander, I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of this property in a notebook.  The quality of the stitching is excellent.  The binding is a little unusual in that mull has been used on the spine instead of regular binding tape.  It’s very neatly finished and further adds to the sense of class that goes with these notebooks.

Such a light-coloured cover is vulnerable to marking, but an inexpensive clear plastic cover is available from most of the stockists who sell the notebooks.

Midori MD notebook binding (#2)

Inside you get gorgeous cream paper with a light blue 5mm grid pattern.  If you like your paper to be a crisp white, this may not appeal to you.  I tend to prefer off-white paper, so this works just fine for me.  Unlike some gridded notebooks, the grid blends nicely with the paper stock meaning it does its job unobtrusively – allowing you to get on with the business of writing.  I couldn’t find any definitive information on the weight of the paper, but I’d hazard a guess at 80gsm.

Midori MD grid detail

What’s it like to use?

Here’s a sample written with a fine nibbed Lamy 2000, inked with J. Herbin Perle Noire…

Midori MD handwriting sample

Trying a range of nib sizes and inks didn’t phase the MD paper in the slightest.  There was no sign of any feathering or bleed-through, even with some very wet pen/ink combinations.  This does mean that drying times are not always the quickest, but I’d say it’s no worse for the MD paper compared to other quality papers.  I even tried a Tombow ABT brush pen and the paper behaved itself impeccably.

The paper does have a bit of tooth to it.  This meant getting feedback with some of the drier pen/ink combinations I tried, but it was never enough to be a problem.  I found that some of these were harder work to write with than others, so you might have a bit of trial and error figuring out which ones work well for you and which ones less so if you write a lot in one sitting.

It won’t come as a surprise that the cream paper base affects the appearance of some inks.  Darker inks fared pretty well, but some lighter inks like Rohrer and Klingner Alt Goldgrun lost a bit of their punch compared to when used on lighter papers.

These are minor niggles, though, and in my opinion are outweighed by the performance and quality of these notebooks.

Midori MD various pen samples

There is some show-through, but I haven’t found it at all intrusive when writing on the reverse of a page.

Midori MD show-through


In conclusion, these are fantastic quality notebooks which I’ve come to love over the past couple of months of use.  Any negatives are pretty small and vastly outweighed by the positives of design, execution and function.  The paper is exquisite and takes pretty much any ink you might choose to throw at it.  If you haven’t tried one and are looking for a new notebook to try, I thoroughly recommend them.